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Revista signos

On-line version ISSN 0718-0934


PARIS, Luis. ‘Complaints’ as Verbal Actions in conversations. Rev. signos [online]. 2012, vol.45, n.79, pp.176-197. ISSN 0718-0934.

The main goal of this paper is to capture an essential aspect of the interactional content in a conversation -i.e. a doctor-patient interview on mental health- by means of the <complaint> category as defined by the theory of Verbal Actions (París, Car & Doffo, 2008). Verbal Actions (VAs) are intended to capture basically the same domain of conversational content than Speech Acts (Searle & Vanderverken, 1985), Adjacent Pairs (Sacks, 1995) and Discourse Acts (Sinclair & Coulthard, 1992). Whereas Speech Acts concentrate on Speakers’ intentions, VAs are highly sensitive to the interactional content. Their focus is the collaborative construction of meaning. This interest takes them closer to Adjacent Pairs (Sacks, 1995; Heinemann & Traverso, 2009) but VAs differentiate themselves from the latter ones due to their highly specified and precise definition of each category, which allows for the distinction of <complaint> from <recrimination>, <accusation>, <blaming>, <lament> and <victimization> while capturing all the features shared by this family of VAs. In contrast to Discourse Acts, AVs limit themselves essentially to represent content information while leaving its connection to linguistic forms highly underspecified. A <complaint> is described here in terms of an abstract feature structure according to a general schema valid for any VA category. This structure can be satisfied totally or partially by each instance. The theory distinguishes in this way between ‘solid’ and ‘liquid’ realizations of the category, respectively. They are exemplified by [complaint1] and [complaint2]. This device allows a detailed specification of the category itself while its realizations remain decidedly unconstrained.

Keywords : Speech Act, Verbal Action, conversation, complaint.

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